Animal Kingom is preparing at Fair Hill Training Center just north of Baltimore for Saturday's Preakness Stakes.
All 14 three-year-olds entered for Saturday’s 136th running of the $1 million Preakness Stakes (Grade I) drew into the mile-and-three-sixteenths race, with Kentucky Derby (Grade I) winner Animal Kingdom landing in post No. 11 and being installed as the 2-to-1 morning line favorite. This marks just the 2nd time since 1992 that a full field goes to post in the run for the Woodlawn Vase.
After never being higher than 3-to-1 in his first four career starts, the son of Leroidesanimaux trained by Graham Motion won the Run for the Roses as a 20-to-1 long shot, but don’t let that fool you into thinking he’s a flash in the pan.
The impressive manner in which Animal Kingdom won the Derby validated the belief from many who had watched him train at Churchill Downs that he was the best horse in the race. And, two weeks later, he’s likely the best horse again.
“I’m very happy. I think the 11 is fine," Motion told Laffit Pincay III after the draw. "I’m a little worn. It’s been an interesting 10 days. I don’t think anyone could have prepared me except for maybe Bob Baffert or Nick (Zito) for the onslaught after the Derby.”
Since Affirmed last won horse racing’s Triple Crown in 1978, 11 Kentucky Derby winners have gone on to win the middle jewel at Pimlico Race Course, only to be defeated in the Belmont Stakes (Grade I) three weeks later.
After a disappointing eighth place finish in the Derby as the 5-to-1 favorite, Dialed In is back for Zito chasing a $5.5 million bonus he is eligible for off his wins in the Holy Bull Stakes (Grade III) and Florida Derby (Grade I). The son of Mineshaft will break from post No. 10 under Julien Leparoux, who needs to keep the 9-to-2 second choice closer in the early stages of the race if he hopes to cash the biggest prize in horse racing history.
Will Animal Kingdom win the 2011 Preakness Stakes?
"He should be in the clear. Julien should get over and get a good spot," Zito told Pincay. "He hasn’t lost any credibility. I’m pretty sure he’ll come with his run again and it will be a different story. Nick Zito believes that Dialed In is still the best three-year-old in the country."
Kentucky Derby runner-up Nehro will skip the Preakness and point for the Belmont Stakes, but third-place Derby finisher Mucho Mach Man will make the trip to Baltimore for trainer Kathy Ritvo. The still developing son of Macho Uno has finished in the money in 8-of-9 starts and was made the 6-to-1 third choice after drawing post No. 9.
Redemption for Derby disappoint is the goal again for Baffert, who is tied for 2nd all-time after winning his fifth Preakness last year with Lookin At Lucky after finishing sixth as the favorite in Kentucky. However, Midnight Interlude, who will break from the same No. 7 stall as 'Lucky did, ran nowhere near as encouraging a race at Churchill as his predecessor, and the switch again to jockey Martin Garcia is unlikely to make the difference on its own.
After the start of his three-year-old campaign was delayed due to sickness, Astrology, who drew the inside post No. 1, hops on the Triple Crown trail off second place finishes in both the Sunland Derby (Grade III) and Jerome (Grade II). Those efforts validated his victory in last year’s Iroquois (Grade III) and runner-up finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club (Grade II) for trainer Steve Asmussen, who won the Preakness with the filly Rachel Alexandra two years ago.
Below is the complete field for Saturday's race, including post position, morning line and a brief comment.
PP Horse (Morning Line Odds) Comment
1. Astrology (15-1) Most likely of the new shooters to make an impact.
2. Norman Asbjornson (30-1) Double-digit odds for 5th straight time and will run to them.
3. King Congie (20-1) Bluegrass form didn’t hold up in Derby.
4. Flashpoint (20-1) Unseasoned, unfavorable pace scenario and unlikely to get distance.
5. Shackleford (12-1) Sticks around for another slice even with quicker pace than Derby.
6. Sway Away (15-1) Consider him to be best as a late-running sprinter.
7. Midnight Interlude (15-1) Can Baffert switching to his main man Garcia work again?
8. Dance City (12-1) Steadily improving front-runner ran big in Arkansas Derby.
9. Mucho Macho Man (6-1) Consistency makes him logical for exotics at least.
10. Dialed In (9-2) Likely would have been pointed elsewhere if not for $5.5 million.
11. Animal Kingdom (2-1) I’m a believer. May offer value if public thinks Derby was fluke.
12. Isn’t He Perfect (30-1) A massive long shot again, as he has been in 10-of-12 starts.
13. Concealed Identity (30-1) Local hope and Animal Kingdom only two coming in off a win.
14. Mr. Commons (20-1) Reportedly continues to train well, but is over-matched here.
Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @mdoche!
To view my horse racing channel on YouTube click here!